400 years ago, Shakespeare’s Lady Percy describes her husband’s battle induced post-traumatic stress disorder. Original text followed by a modern translation.
Henry IV Part 1 Act 2 Scene 3
“O my good lord, why are you thus alone?
For what offense have I this fortnight been
A banished woman from my Harry’s bed?
Tell me, sweet lord, what is ’t that takes from thee
Thy stomach, pleasure, and thy golden sleep?
Why dost thou bend thine eyes upon the earth
And start so often when thou sit’st alone?
Why hast thou lost the fresh blood in thy cheeks
And given my treasures and my rights of thee
To thick-eyed musing and curst melancholy?
In thy faint slumbers I by thee have watched,
And heard thee murmur tales of iron wars,
Speak terms of manage to thy bounding steed,
Cry “Courage! To the field!” And thou hast talk’d
Of sallies and retires, of trenches, tents,
Of palisadoes, frontiers, parapets,
Of basilisks, of cannon, culverin,
Of prisoners’ ransom and of soldiers slain,
And all the currents of a heady fight.
Thy spirit within thee hath been so at war,
And thus hath so bestirred thee in thy sleep,
That beads of sweat have stood upon thy brow
Like bubbles in a late-disturbèd stream,
And in thy face strange motions have appeared,
Such as we see when men restrain their breath
On some great sudden hest. O, what portents are these?
Some heavy business hath my lord in hand,
And I must know it, else he loves me not. “
Henry IV Part 1 Act 2 Scene 3 – Modern Translation
Oh, my good lord, why are you alone like this? What have I done to make my Harry banish me from his bed these past two weeks? Tell me, sweet husband, what has stolen your appetite, your desire, and your sleep? Why do you stare at the ground and jump in your skin when you are sitting alone? Where is the colour in your cheeks? Why have you taken all your attention, which should be mine, and given it to this dark mood and terrible sadness? While you sleep so lightly, I’ve watched you and heard you mumble stories of war. I’ve heard you give commands to your horse. I’ve heard you yell, “Courage! To the field!” And you have talked of charges and retreats; of trenches, tents; of fences, ramparts, and walls; of all types of cannon; of prisoners’ ransoms and of dead soldiers, and of all the movements of a violent battle. Your soul has also been at war and has disturbed you in your sleep. Beads of sweat have broken out on your forehead, like bubbles in a churning stream. And on your face I’ve seen strange expressions, like a man who’s gulping his breath at an awful, sudden command. Oh, what does all this mean? My lord is contemplating some serious matters, and if he doesn’t tell me about them, he surely doesn’t love me.